Town Planning Holds Public Hearing for Permanent Open Restaurant Program and Kicks Off Public Engagement Design Process


Image Credit: NYC DOT.

Many residents and community board members complained about quality of life issues, including noise, litter, cigarette smoke, and loss of parking. On October 6, 2021, the Planning Commission held a public hearing for the Permanent Open Restaurants program. The Permanent Open Restaurant Program will formalize a process for restaurants to operate sidewalk or street side cafes in a shortened process. The proposed permanent program follows the popularity of the Temporary Open Restaurant Program, which was created last year to allow restaurants to host outdoor dining in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After an emergency executive decree temporarily suspended sidewalk café rules, the Temporary Open Restaurant program allowed thousands of restaurants to participate in al fresco dining without going through the extensive approval process. sidewalk cafes. At the time of writing, 11,943 restaurants are participating in the Open Dining Program. The temporary open restaurant program will last until 2022. As the temporary program was only activated due to an emergency decree, several changes to the zoning text, agency rules and legislation locale should be made before the program can become permanent. Including the transfer of control of sidewalk cafes and pavement from the Ministry of Consumer and Worker Protection to the Ministry of Transport. The currently proposed zoning text change will remove geographic restrictions on the location of sidewalk cafes, including specific locations and existing trails and other regulations. For CityEarthfor prior coverage of the permanent open restaurant application, click here.

Although zoning text changes do not require the uniform land use review process, the Planning Department still refers zoning text change requests to community councils for review. CityEarth compiled the decisions of the community council regarding the Permanent Open Restaurants program. To view these decisions, click here, and to read community councils’ arguments for and against the program, click here.

Public audience

During the public hearing of the Town Planning Commission, many speakers spoke for and against the program. Supporting stakeholders stressed that businesses would not have survived without the open restaurant program. Andrew Rigie of the New York City Hospitality Alliance noted that the program had saved 100,000 jobs and thousands of businesses. Restaurant owner Jeffrey Bank of the Alicart restaurant group noted that this program has been a “godsend” for independent restaurants, and having a food court on the street has made the streets safer, in particular. in Times Square.

Opposition speakers shared various concerns about the impact of the open dining program on nearby residents and businesses. Residents and community council members have expressed frustration with increasing noise in residential areas, making it difficult to work from home and sleep. People have also commented that the outdoor spaces of bars and restaurants with liquor licenses become extremely noisy, especially when there is loud music. Many community board members said that “one size doesn’t fit all” and that the open restaurant program works better in some communities than others. Residents also commented on other quality of life issues, such as increased marijuana and cigarette smoke in apartments, increased rat infestation on the streets and increased congestion. road.

Community members have noted that other small businesses are suffering as a result of this program. MP Debra Glick said many businesses have lost street visibility due to sidewalk congestion and are unable to get their deliveries. Community members have indicated that this program is a burden that only benefits one industry.

Restaurant owners responded to comments about sanitation issues, stating that cleanliness is in the best interest of every restaurant and that most restaurants try to keep their areas clean. However, restaurateurs also expressed frustration with the excessive fines associated with this program, explaining that it is very difficult for independent restaurants to know the rules and regulations until they are fined for violation.

Public engagement process

The Planning Department also announced a city-wide public engagement process for the design rules for the permanent open restaurant program. The existing Sidewalk Café program has clear path requirements that outline the placement of tables and chairs to ensure an appropriate distance from fire hydrants and other businesses. While the open restaurant program has certain guidelines for structures and location requirements, the ongoing program will need to formally define what is allowed and what is not. These new rules have yet to be established, so the Ministry of Urban Planning and the Ministry of Transport are asking the public for their opinion. To provide the public with the opportunity to participate and shape the design process, there will be in-person and remote roundtables across the city this fall and winter. Details on these sessions will be available in the near future on the DOT and NYC Engage webpage.

In addition, design and advocacy groups, the Regional Plan Association, the Design Trust for Public Space, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, will participate in a series of independent roundtables as part of a process to raise awareness of the public. stakeholders.

Members of the public interested in providing feedback can also provide it now on the DOT website.

An interagency design working group will assist in the design process and public engagement, and will include the departments of buildings, consumer and worker protection, environmental protection, sanitation, Health and Mental Hygiene, Small Business Services, Fire Department, Public Design Commission, Monument Preservation Commission, Economic Development Corporation, Mayor’s Office for Media and the entertainment and the Mayor’s Office for the disabled.

DCP Director Anita Laremont said: “Correct design is one of the most important elements of our next open dining program – for our health and safety, and for our enjoyment of the public realm of the city of. New York. To get it right, we need input from the public – you. So please get involved and let’s make the Open Restaurants program even better.

The planning commission will vote at a later date, and then city council will need to review and vote on the request.

Through: Veronique Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw Scholar and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018.) and Victoria agosta (Victoria is an intern at CityLaw and a student at New York Law School, class of 2022.)

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